Deadly toll at nursing homes

  • Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, stretches the thin cloth band of a surgical mask, which was received in a shipment from the federal government, outside Webster at Rye senior care center on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, in Rye, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

Monitor staff
Published: 7/1/2020 5:50:44 PM

New data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows a harrowing reality for nursing homes across the state, some of which have had nearly a quarter of their residents die from COVID-19.

David Ross, a nursing administrator at Hillsborough County Nursing Home, said this has been the most difficult time for him in his 30 years of working in a nursing home.

Hillsborough has 300 beds. The most recent numbers through June 14 show 158 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21 residents died. The onset of the virus at the facility was sudden and extensive – first, two residents tested positive in March and within 2 days, 34 residents were infected.

While retaining staff and working long shifts has been difficult for the facility, it has been even more difficult to keep spirits up when residents are constantly sent down to the COVID-19 unit.

Ross said it’s especially hard to bring older residents to the unit, who recognize the move likely signifies the end of their lives.

“Residents will ask you ‘am I going to die?’ ” he said. “You don’t want to lie but you don’t want to be truthful.”

Ross and his staff are terrified to open the home up to visitors, which the state has started allowing for facilities that show no evidence of coronavirus infection. Ross worries a visitors will spread the virus and start the whole grueling process all over again.

Most of the time, he said he feels like he’s living in a completely separate world from his friends and family. When they text him about being excited to go back to the office or frustrated they have to wear a mask, Ross can’t bring himself to respond.

“They just don’t understand what life is like in a place like this,” he said. “You feel so disconnected from the rest of the world. Our reality is so different.”

Statewide, 80% of the total COVID-19 deaths have been related to long term care facilities, which includes staff and residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and long-term chronic care hospitals. Nursing home infections and deaths are a subset of the larger totals.

A look at the numbers

■As of June 14, nursing homes accounted for 14.62% of all COVID-19 cases and 56.56% of the COVID-19 deaths in New Hampshire.

■8 out of 73 nursing homes reported that at least 10% of their residents died from COVID-19.

■10 out of 73 nursing homes reported that at least a quarter of their residents tested positive for COVID-19.

■52 out of 73 nursing homes reported having zero confirmed cases of COVID-19.

■About a quarter of the residents at Crestwood Center, a nursing home in Milford, died from COVID-19.

■About 83% of residents at Hackett Hill Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Manchester, tested positive for COVID-19.

■Pleasant Valley Nursing Home, a facility in Derry, reported the highest number of COVID-19 deaths, 22.

■Hillsborough County Nursing Home, one of the largest facilities in New Hampshire, reported the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases, 158, and the highest number of staff COVID-19 cases, 86. 

■Concord nursing homes that provide Medicare/Medicaid nursing facility services reported no cases of COVID-positive residents.

About the data

This data is self-reported by nursing homes to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and includes data until June 14. Only nursing homes that provide Medicare/Medicaid nursing facility services are included. Percentages were calculated conservatively by using the total amount of beds in a facility. It is likely that not all of the beds at a nursing home are occupied, which would make these percentages higher.

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